Indigenous Literacy Day and The Great Book Swap

Our opening night speaker, and Blak & Bright guest and workshop facilitator Anita Heiss, is a Lifetime Ambassador for the Indigenous Literary Foundation.

Blak & Bright also supports the important work this Foundation does in addressing literacy levels in remote Indigenous communities.

Dr Anita Heiss

Literacy is essential to Aboriginal people’s self-determination. If we cannot read we cannot make the decisions that inevitably impact on our lives. Self-determination requires each of us to have the literacy to have the power to make our own decisions and control our own futures. Only when we are self-determined as individuals will we be self-determined as a nation of peoples.

Indigenous Literacy Day, September 7 2016

Open your doors for literacy! Indigenous Literacy Day is our major fundraising day. Through our activities on the day, we focus attention on the disadvantages experienced in remote communities. You, your friends and colleagues are encouraged to raise funds and advocate for more equal access to literacy resources for remote communities. This day is the perfect opportunity to run a Great Book Swap. In 2016, our goal is to raise $400,000.

The Great Book Swap is our major fundraising activity. Any individual, group or organisation can run this simple, easy event – anytime – it encourages the sharing of books while raising funds for the ILF. Register online and the ILF will provide further information and tips. Our goal in 2016 is to have 1000 schools raise $200,000 for 20,000 books for Indigenous kids in remote communities.

See for further details.

Blak & Bright at The Moat

The Moat 2.jpg

In the basement of The Wheeler Centre is The Moat cafe, the venue for a couple of our special Blak & Bright sessions, including Borrow a Rare (Living) Book and the Australian Poets Festival event. With its unique courtyard and the hefty, time-worn 19th Century bluestone walls, The Moat establishes an atmosphere that pays homage to the nostalgia and intellect of the building whilst also catering to the whimsy and fantasy of the literary events that take place within the building. The Moat is the perfect place to begin or continue a Blak & Bright conversation throughout the festival.

Why I Read Blak – Sei Kosugi

In the latest installment in our series, Associate Professor Sei Kosugi considers the global reach of Australia’s Indigenous storytellers. 

I teach Pacific literature in Japan. One of the texts which I like to read in my class is Stolen by Jane Harrison. It is a short play with a sense of silence between the speeches. Students are required to use their insight and imagination to grasp what is happening on the stage and to the characters. Though it is a compact play, it presents the most tragic aspects of the history of ‘Stolen Children’ (such as Ruby’s descent into madness and Jimmy’s suicide) with minimum words, inducing a deep emotional response in readers/ the audience. The play also gives a sense of strength and resilience (as we can see it in Sandy’s storytelling) to survive those tragedies.

I also like how Alexis Wright describes the landscape and people in her novels of epic /mystic grandeur such as Carpentaria and The Swan Book. Her imagination, though deeply rooted in her traditional land of Northern Queensland and its heritage, sometimes crosses the boundary of nations and ethnicities. The landscape of the legendary serpent of Carpentaria is overlapped with another archaic landscape in Asia in my mind and in The Swan Book, the swan also creates an extensive imaginative space among continents and islands. These novels also appeal to readers who face natural disasters and live under the danger of nuclear pollution.

Recently I had a chance to see some of the performances of ILBIJERRI (JACK CHARLES V THE CROWN, BEAUTIFUL ONE DAY, and FOLEY) through Ilbijerri’s educational resources. Their unique ways of interrogating social issues in a space of theatre is very impressive. I’m interested in the notion of FOLEY’s style of ‘lecture theatre’, and how it explores a new potentiality of the educational aspects of theatre.

Sei Kosugi is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Language and Culture, Osaka University, Japan. 

Pitch session for Indigenous Writers

In this incredible opportunity, we are bringing together leading publishers and editors for an informal pitching session.

We invite Indigenous writers to join us for a coffee at the Moat to discuss their work with some of the most exciting publishers in Australia, to get the scoop on what they are looking for, how to present your work and hear their perspectives on new work.

This is an informal event, so if you have a completed manuscript or even an inkling of an idea we would love to see you there!

Featuring: Rachel Bin Salleh (Magabala Books), Aviva Tuffield (Black Inc.), Sandra Phillips (QUT), and Vanessa Radnidge (Hachette Australia)

This session will take place on Saturday 20 February, 12:00pm, the Moat, 176 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, 3000.

Limited places available. To book, email Kate Callingham at

The Ibis: authoring your own story


“Murray is an ibis who lives at Lake Craigmuir,
but when his nest is burned in a fire,
he finds himself on an adventure around the world.”

The Ibis is a children’s picture book written by the Koorie boys at Mooroopna Secondary College (MSC), published by Kids’ Own Publishing. In its essence The Ibis is a parable of the authors’ lives. The book opens up an opportunity to talk about the realities of homelessness and child removal with kids of all ages.

The Ibis is the cumulative result of a 4-month art-making studio presented by Kids’ Own Publishing artist and local Melbourne potter, Lyndon Sendeckyj. The program included studio workshops by renowned Australian choreographer Jacob Boehme, author and children’s entertainer Ailsa Wild and visual artist Hart Ely-Faulks.

At its heart this Kids’ Own Publishing project was designed to engage the disengaged. The Koorie boys at MSC showed their imagination by writing this collaborative story about loss, friendship and finding your home in the face of true hardship. Each studio session was a cathartic and emotional opportunity for the boys to express themselves and learn a multitude of artistic techniques.

The artwork in the book is beautiful and evocative and has been displayed at Gallery Kaiela, a community owned and run studio gallery in Shepparton, Victoria. The book itself is stocked in stores around Melbourne and is available on the Kids’ Own Publishing website. Royalties from the book go back to the community to help ensure the boys have access to funding to keep them in school and to continue developing their literacy through book making projects.

Join us for The Ibis Launch and the opportunity to create your own 8-page iPad book at Bella Union, Trades Hall on Sunday 21 February, 1pm-2pm. Free, bookings recommended.

Kids’ Own Publishing is a social purpose arts organisation that gives children a voice, facilitates community storytelling and places children directly into the world of books and literacy.

Blak & Bright: Programme Now Live and Open for Bookings


Welcome to the first ever Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival. Our exciting programme features over 60 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander novelists, oral storytellers, poets, songwriters, playwrights and comedians, from across the nation.

Aboriginal people have always been storytellers. As Festival director Jane Harrison notes:

We have many stories to be shared: funny, poignant, uplifting and fierce stories that enrich all of our lives. For four days, let’s read Blak, hear Blak, enjoy Blak and celebrate Blak stories.


In our Opening Address 20 Reasons Why You Should Read Blak, bestselling author Anita Heiss will ‘unpack the Blak’ – presenting 20 reasons why and how you should read Indigenous literature. She’ll be joined by two of our finest Indigneous actors, Pauline Whyman and Greg Fryer, who’ll be reading excerpts from 20 Blak books.

Later, in our inspiring Keynote Big Stories, Big Genres, award-winning writers Tony Briggs and Bruce Pascoe will share the big urgent stories of our time, consider the tales not being told, and explore how we can pen new narratives.

For a more one-on-one experience, the event Borrow a Rare (Living) Book will allow you to (gently) grab an Elder and settle down with a cupper and some damper for a yarn. Featuring living treasures Aunty Di Kerr, Aunty Jacko, Uncle Larry Walsh and Aunty Kerry Reed-Gilbert.

Feeling creative? Our special Workshop series brings together three of the best writers in Australia today – Anita Heiss (Am I Black Enough For You), Kate Howarth (Settling Day) and Ellen van Neerven (Heat and Light) – for writing workshops on fiction, memoir and voice. These workshops are excellent value, so make sure you book a spot before they sell out.

One of many ground-breaking performances to run over the four days is 6 Plays in 60 Minutes, in which ILBIJERRI, the longest running Indigenous theatre company in Australia, will present short readings from six of their current and upcoming plays in just one hour. Featuring talented young actors Isaac Drandic, Sermsah Bin Saad, Carly Sheppard and Kamarra Bell-Wykes.

Lastly, come feast on stories at our closing event, The Bogong, and hear crafted spoken word pieces from master storytellers Bruce PascoeAli Cobby EckermannNatalie HarkinSam Wagon WatsonKat Clarke and Jane Harrison.

To read the full list of participating artists and find out information about all our events, workshops, performances and readings, see

Most events are FREE but bookings are essential, and can be made through the Events page of our website.

Get involved socially: Tweet @blakandbright and follow the Festival through the hashtag #blakbright16

We hope to see you there!

Message from the Festival Director

Traditionally our stories have told of the changing seasons, the sources of foodstuffs and lore. They are metaphorical, spiritual and social – when different mobs meet, stories are exchanged. Our storytelling has evolved and now encompasses different genres and exquisite forms: poetic, theatrical, spoken word, songs, fiction and non-fiction. Our authors rank up there with the finest, winning prestigious awards and read voraciously all around the world.

We have many stories to be shared: funny, poignant, uplifting and fierce, stories that enrich all of our lives. Spanning four days, let’s read Blak, hear Blak and celebrate Blak stories.

Jane Harrison Muruwari heritage

Victorian Indigenous Literary Officer

Message From the Minister for Creative Industries

Blak & Bright – The Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival 2016

Long before Melbourne’s designation as a City of Literature, the place we now call Victoria was home to a culture of storytelling dating back tens of thousands of years.

The world’s longest continuing culture will be celebrated and strengthened over four days at this, the first Blak & Bright Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival.

The festival showcases a wide array of Indigenous writing talent, from poets to playwrights, songwriters to social commentators.

Congratulations to the festival team, partners and all participating writers for their vision and commitment to bringing this exciting Festival together.

It’s a fantastic addition to our cultural calendar and a story the Victorian Government is proud to be part of.

Martin Foley MP
Minister for Creative Industries

Registration for Workshops NOW OPEN

We’re excited to announce that registration for our special Blak & Bright masterclasses is now open.

These three workshops are extremely good value and are being led by master writers, Anita Heiss, Kate Howarth and Ellen van Neerven. They are suitable for writers of any stage but bring along a piece that you are already working on to get the best value from the session.


Popular fiction with Anita Heiss (Sunday 21 February, 10:30am–2:00pm, $55) 
So, you want to write a novel with mass appeal. A story about women for women? Then join bestselling author Anita Heiss to learn how to write a novel that champions believable characters in authentic settings. Bring your sense of humour, your own stories of heartbreak and be prepared to write, share and laugh.

Memoir writing with Kate Howarth (Sunday 21 February, 10:30am–12:00pm OR 2:30pm–4:00pm, $30) 
This hands-on workshop, specifically designed for Indigenous writers, will involve the process of memoir writing, and will be beneficial to an emerging writer or established writer tackling memoir writing for the first time. The workshop will take the participants from the first stages of getting the story down, to fine tuning and manuscript development.

The language of home black&write! Workshop with Ellen van Neerven (Sunday 21 February, 10:30am–12:00pm OR 2:30pm–4:00pm, $30) 
The language of home could mean our vocabulary, codes and vernacular; it could mean the language of childhood, country, or the streets. The fiction and poetry workshop will explore how to be authentic in dialogue and encourage the representation of lives and identities not often present in Australian literature.

Workshop Venue
Koorie Heritage Trust
Lvl 3, The Yarra Building
Federation Square
Melbourne, Victoria 3000


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Why I Read Blak – David Astle

Writer and crossword-maker David Astle considers an important lesson he’s learnt from reading Blak.

In 2015 I wrote about riddles. My research led me to the Gamilaraay people of the Walgett area who revelled in riddles and elaborate skipping games. I also found a riddle poem by Lionel Fogarty called Big ‘N’ Riddle which ends on the paradox, ‘The end is never the end…’ That line alone is why I cherish the Blak voice, because nothing ever ends – not a poem, not a people – and the beginning is just the start.

(You can read Big ‘N’ Riddle here)

David Astle is an author and a crossword maker for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, as well as Wordplay columnist with Spectrum.